“Love, time, death and loss have all been the inspiration for sonnets. ” Discuss how this applies to the sonnets you have studied and comment on their technical variety. The themes of love, time, death and loss are often and easily linked for obvious reasons. As far back as poetry and writing date, these themes will be clear within them. Often the inspiration for tragic or despairing poetry, one should perhaps observe the sonnets which are particularly linked to such subject matter. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 is about time bringing forth potential loss of love and the unavoidable consequences of age.
The sonnet opens with a revelation of the time of year, imagery of autumn, the end of the year and the autumn of his own life. It is reflective almost to the point of wallowing; the sun is fading, the yellow leaves “do hang” and there is a poetic link to singing birds, highlighting the ever-present bitter sweet melancholy within the piece. The first quatrain begins to set the tune of the sonnet, using the concept of time within the seasons with an almost literal landscape foundation; the descriptions of nature are at their oldest, ravaged by time and nearing their ending.
Shakespeare uses various parallels, drawing one in as the almost literal portrayal being in the ‘autumn’ of his own life. The second quatrain is also a careful parallel within these concepts of time, amplifying the original thought yet seemingly focusing on the detail of the month; the time of day. He speaks of “twilight” as a time which is not quite day nor night, though speech of the sun which “fadeth in the west” is reinforced by the alliteration of line seven, “by and by black night” ironically sheds the light of the poem and highlights the subject matter within the cruelty of nature.
This sense of darkness within the sonnet is potentially symbolic of the Christian views of light, and its’ symbolic representation. The only light that is noted is that of youth; burning to “ashes” and seems to represent the theme of loss within the sonnet; if one loses faith, then what is possibly left? There is a certain confusion representative of the senile attributes of old age throughout the sonnet and particular the style and technique. Towards the beginning of the sonnet, the words “yellow leaves or none, or few” seem to set the tone for the rest of the piece.
The argument already seems unclear; the negativity followed by assurance of remaining leaves, if only some promotes this confusion within numbers. It is almost a confused reassurance that there is still some life present. The presence of enjambement within the first two lines clearly reinforces this and contributes to the jerky, less certain movements of old age within the rhythm of the poem. The words seem to weave in and out, and syllables are cluttered, as is the punctuation.
There is a rhythm, although it is gentle and somewhat reminiscent of the sounds of leaves, crackling in the wind, cascading through the air, and gently reaching their earthy deathbed, before being absorbed into another life. The rhythm gently breezes though the sonnet, almost taking the reader on a literal journey through to the ground with some uncertainty of where one shall land. There is a certain stark beauty evident within the imagery, the parallels with the beauty of nature throughout the ages.
Age is often considered unattractive, and abrupt reminders of mortality. Despite the desperation and sadness of this poem, there it highlights a certain beauty of age, paralleling it with nature. It has to be, and could it be any better way than represented through the raw honesty and patterns of nature. It is a gentle kind of sorrow, accepting its’ fate. One could consider the great irony of the sonnet lying in the fact that nature is possibly the only tangible, timeless part of this earth.
There maybe death and there maybe tragedy, however, the cycle is never-ending. The certain soft resignation within 73 is contrasted within line 12; which seems to comply with another of Shakespeare’s sonnets -116. Passionate feelings and almost anger are present within the words; line 12 of sonnet 73 begins to question this, noting the consumption of “that which it was nourished by. ” The personification of love is a regular theme, although not so consistent with 73.
The almost unjust consumption of this love by time is similar to the personification of feelings within 116, proposing to almost oppose feelings in order to resolve them. The opening lines of 116 echo marriage vows, yet also open with clearly noted enjambement and a celestial pause. One may already presume that things are not as concrete as at first glance. This is reinforced by the negative elements which follow, proposing to define love through what it is not; “Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds”,